Debbie: You sure know an awful lot for an “island girl.”
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Nickelodeon crossovers are few and far in between. Many 90s (and early 2000s) Nickelodeon shows are hailed as classics on their own even today. The prospect of having two shows crossover in a movie or TV special was enough to hype a huge audience. As a kid, crossovers like this one were great to see. But as an adult the flaws of this movie are much more noticeable.
The story is that the Rugrats and their parents find themselves shipwrecked on a remote island where the Thornberry family is exploring as well. Tommy, having seen Nigel Thornberry’s nature documentaries, assumes he is on the island as well and thus Tommy and the rest of the babies set out to find him in hopes he can help them.
Much like the previous Rugrats films, the movie does drop clever references to other movies that adults can appreciate. And they all have a nice synergy to them that ties into the movie’s premise and setting.
When it comes to the characters they still feel just as enjoyable as they were in their respective shows. And the movie got the original cast from both shows for this movie, which was nice. It helps make this easily associable for the fans.
The main problem with the story is the experience of two different worlds colliding. The way the movie is set up at the beginning shows promise with Tommy and the others imagining Nigel Thornberry’s adventures and the prospect of experiencing up close when the characters get shipwrecked. And the two worlds colliding leads to some entertainment such as Eliza and Darwin meeting up with the Pickles’ dog Spike to find the babies (given an enjoyable silly performance by Bruce Willis), Angelica learning to be bossy with the help of Debbie, Tommy meeting his idol Nigel Thornberry, and Donnie meeting up with Chuckie. On their own these scenes are very nice character pairings and it compares and contrasts very well, but together the movie feels very much out of focus. In fact, it’s not until the very end that everything comes together. The approach of having them mingle little by little it’s built up well but the outcome is disappointing. With all the characters largely separated for the majority here, the plot gets rather muddled.
The movie doesn’t feel like a movie as much as an extended TV episode. The scope and ambition the movie has don’t feel any different from what would happen in a TV episode of either of these shows. There aren’t a lot of major things that happen in this movie in comparison to the first two movies that preceded it. The villainous leopard named Siri for instance, bent on eating the babies after learning that they are on the island from Spike is a rather underwhelming villain and plays a small role compared to villains like Coco Labouche and Sloan Blackburn.
Both the Rugrats and the Wild Thornberrys are enjoyable shows and it has some creative ideas in crossing the two shows. But with all the scenarios together, it feels more like a TV special. And this isn’t a bad idea for a crossover. If it were a TV special, there would have been a lot more leeway and a lot more time to flesh out the interesting scenarios. If you’re a fan of both shows there’s some enjoyment to be had in this movie. But coming off the heels of three Nickelodeon movies preceding it, it’s rather disappointing. It’s enjoyable and harmless enough for youngsters but there isn’t much to it outside of nostalgia.